The winner of the BBC boardroom talent show The Apprentice has resigned from YouView. Stella English was offered a role there after resigning from the £100,000 a year contract she was initially awarded. Lord Sugar, the star of the show, is non-executive chairman of the planned television platform, which is backed by the BBC and a number of other broadcasters and service providers. It turns out an apprenticeship at the start-up venture was less exciting than she expected.
Stella won the final of the sixth series of The Apprentice in December 2010. The prize was a job at Viglen, an information technology services company over which Lord Sugar presides. He appointed her as a project manager but seems to have been unimpressed by the lack of subsequent contact. She resigned from Viglen in May and was instead offered a job at YouView, where she was to work with an expert on potential security issues. She remained an employee of Lord Sugar at no additional cost to YouView.
She claims that Lord Sugar had little contact after that. “I didn’t speak to him for three months,” she told the Sunday Mail. “He popped in twice and said hello.” At the end of September Lord Sugar called her to a meeting and pointed out that her contract would be up at the end of December. He reportedly said that YouView could not afford to keep her on.
“I’ve been working for years and I’ve never seen anything like it in business,” she told the Mail. “The minute Lord Sugar put me in a company he didn’t run there were no prospects for my career.”
Representatives of Lord Sugar disputed aspects of her claims, but confirmed that Stella English had resigned for a second time.
After leaving school with no qualifications, Stella went on to become head of business management at a bank before taking part in The Apprentice in the hope of securing a senior executive role.
The outcome is more of an embarrassment for the BBC and the credibility of the programme than for YouView, but it raises further questions about the project and the level of involvement of Lord Sugar. He was brought in as non-executive chairman of YouView in March 2011 as a replacement for Kip Meek.
Originally slated for launch in 2010, YouView claims that it is still “on track to launch in early 2012”.